It’s been nearly a month since Anteaters have returned to campus, and UCI has sprung to life with new energy and excitement. Back-to-school is one of my favorite seasons as chancellor of an elite public university because our students are a sound reminder of why UCI continues to exist and thrive. Our campus was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to improve society by fostering knowledge and providing world-class education to talented young people, regardless of background. Today I’m happy to share that more than 50 percent of our California-resident freshmen are the first in their families to pursue a college degree. For many, higher education is the first step in achieving the quintessential goal we often call the American dream: a better life for one’s self and one’s family.
Freshman Demetrious Rivera, a biomedical engineering major from a rural community in the San Joaquin Valley, says that attending UCI brings opportunities for him to broaden his perspective, be exposed to new ideas and grow as an individual. His ultimate aim is to design prosthetics for veterans. You can read more about Demetrious as well as other outstanding freshmen here.
Focus on first-gen
UCI is committed to helping first-generation students soar, whether it’s through forging new partnerships with local school districts or establishing mentorship programs to connect freshmen with peers and professors who have already navigated the higher education system.
In 2014, Anita Casavantes Bradford, associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies and history, founded a first-generation faculty initiative that heightens the visibility and approachability of instructors who were the first in their families to earn a college degree. Through the use of self-identifying T-shirts and training workshops, the program is intended to instill a sense of community across campus and build bonds among Anteaters. Professor Casavantes Bradford’s vision has been replicated throughout the University of California system, with UCI serving as a model for other campuses to foster student success.
Recently, UCI also teamed up with Anaheim Union High School District, Fullerton College and Cypress College to further access to higher education for first-gen, low-income local students. As part of the Anaheim Union Educational Pledge, UCI will guarantee admission to all AUHSD graduates enrolled at Cypress College or Fullerton College who fulfill transfer admission requirements.
Meeting student needs
UCI prides itself on serving a diverse, vibrant population of students from all walks of life. As such, members of our university regularly seek out ways to equip students with vital tools and resources. One example is the new FRESH Basic Needs Hub, a 2,300-square-foot facility stocked with dried and canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and toiletries. FRESH, which stands for Food Resources Empowering Students with Hope, is a student-initiated venture of the UCI Student Outreach & Retention Center that aims to address food insecurity issues faced by some college students. The facility – part grocery store, part classroom – also offers a meal prep station, lounge areas, and cooking demos so students can learn how to prepare food at home. Its grand opening received write-ups in the Los Angeles Times and Food & Wine magazine.
Samueli gift names College of Health Sciences
UCI is still celebrating the news that dear friends of the campus, Susan and Henry Samueli, made a tremendous commitment of $200 million to name the College of Health Sciences. It’s the first university-based health sciences enterprise to incorporate evidence-based integrative health research, teaching and patient care across its schools and programs. The Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences will encompass the new Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, the School of Medicine, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy (currently the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences) and the School of Population Health (now the Program in Public Health). You can watch a video of the historic announcement here.
Funds will support construction of a state-of-the-art building, cutting-edge technology and lab equipment, endowed chairs, graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships, and clinical and programmatic resources that will expand and revolutionize UCI’s educational offerings. The college will focus on preparing the next generation of healthcare providers to administer superior, forward-thinking care to patients of all backgrounds. We are deeply humbled by the Samuelis’ extraordinary generosity and unwavering support of our institution.
New hope for spinal cord injury patients
Recently, the National Science Foundation awarded $8 million to a consortium led by UCI to develop a brain-computer interface that can restore walking ability and sensation to those with spinal cord injuries. Headed by Payam Heydari, professor of electrical engineering & computer science, the team of researchers from UCI, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California will work to refine and perfect a proof-of-concept study that enabled a paraplegic man to walk a short distance. The effort will focus on creating a fully implantable version of the technology that will continuously access brain signals to increase accuracy and control of movement. The research project holds promise for patients who have lost mobility due to stroke or traumatic brain injury.
Championing after-school and summer education
UCI's School of Education marked the 10-year anniversary of its Certificate in Afterschool & Summer Education program, which trains students to administer K-12 after-school activities through partnerships with local schools and organizations such as Girls Inc. and KidWorks. Founded by education professor Deborah Vandell, the pioneering program has helped position UCI as a leader in out-of-school education research. Today, six Ph.D. students are working alongside education professors to study the topic. It’s an important field, as research shows that what children and youth do with their time after school can have a major impact on their lives. Since its inception, CASE has certified 163 undergraduates and racked up more than 15,000 volunteer hours at Southern California schools.
Giving free speech its due
Every year, I send out a message to the campus reaffirming UCI’s position on free speech and maintaining a climate rooted in civility and respect. Freedom of speech is a bedrock value of our constitutional system and is at the core of UCI’s mission. I firmly believe that universities exist to provide the conditions for hard thought and difficult debate so that new knowledge can be generated and individuals can develop the capacity for independent judgment. That’s why I was exceedingly proud that UCI’s official position on the matter was recognized by the California State Assembly, which unanimously passed a resolution this summer urging all state colleges and universities to adopt free speech statements consistent with our own. While we have seen institutions across the nation grapple with free speech, I’m confident that UCI will continue to be a place where people are respectful to one another, especially when facing opposing viewpoints.Assemblyman honors UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman for campus free speech advocacy
On a final note, I want to share some updates about UCI Illuminations, our arts and culture initiative. Now in its third year, Illuminations has given countless students from a variety of majors a chance to experience the vibrant arts community in Orange County. For some, going to an Illuminations-sponsored event has been their first-ever encounter with live music, theater, visual arts, dance or creative writing. Illuminations continues to grow in popularity, and this year, UCI is bringing several award-winning authors to campus for public readings and book signings. I hope you will explore the calendar of events and consider attending or supporting programming this academic year.